My Reaction To The Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Direct

When Masahiro Sakurai declared this to the ultimate version of Super Smash Bros., he wasn’t kidding.

Nintendo is banking this year’s entire holiday season on two of their biggest franchises, but while Let’s Go! Pikachu/Eevee has been doling out small chunks of information at a moderate pace, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has been given the royal treatment, getting a ton of airtime at E3 and now  receiving its own dedicated Nintendo Direct this week. While I’m not on the SSB express hype train that a lot of my peers are riding, there’s no denying that Sakurai and Nintendo have pulled out all the stops to make SSBU a personalized experience for players, giving them a multitude of tools to customize the game any way they see fit.

I’ll get to my specific thoughts on the Direct in a moment, but first I need to addressed the green-hatted specter in the room…

Dead Luigi: My livestream crashed multiple times at the start of the Direct, so I didn’t actually see Luigi get his soul ripped out by Death until I rewatched the recording. While I thought using Luigi’s Mansion to tie Castlevania to the SSB universe was a logical choice, I’m torn on the inclusion of the death scene for two reasons:

  • It was jarring and graphic enough that I’m concerned how younger children might have reacted to it.
  • It lit up Twitter so much that it overshadowed the actual reveals of the trailer. Simon Belmont is a great add and the Dedede/K. Rool troll was hilarious, but it was the fall of the plumber that people were talking about instead.

If you’re in the “no such thing as bad publicity” camp, it was a smart move that really got people’s attention. Personally, I would have rather seen more attention given to the actual game content and not the death scene.

Speaking of actual game content…

  • Simon and Richter: While I admit my reaction to Richter was “who?”, I was familiar enough with the Castlevania series to know that this was a big get for SSBU. The character’s range/speed tradeoff should make for an interesting dynamic on the battlefield (anyone who’s been splatted by an Explosher in Splatoon 2 knows slower attackers are still very dangerous in the right hands), and the Dracula’s Castle stage takes hazards to the extreme (but only if you want them; more on that later). Also, the demonstration of Alucard’s powers suggests that assist trophies, which can now be KO’d for points, are going to step up their game in response.
  • Chrom and Dark Samus: As someone who is not terribly familiar with Fire Emblem and Metroid, these characters just confused me more than anything else. Chrom is a major part of FE: Awakening and Dark Samus adds more villains to the series, so they certainly have strong cases for inclusion. Additionally, as Echo Fighters the development burden is assumed to be lighter than for characters built from the ground up, so the time/resource investment makes sense even if they’re niche characters (hey, if people wanted to play as actual Daisy instead of a recolored Peach, I imagine Dark Samus had a similar vocal fanbase). For me, however, neither character passes the Pichu test (as in “I’d rather play as Pichu”), so I though the reveal was pretty meh.
  • New/Old Stages: The stage work the SSBU team has put in here is nothing short of amazing. Over 100 stages, each with Omega and Battlefield versions?! The ability to switch stages in the middle of a battle?! Stage Hazards are now a option that can be toggled?! Sakurai and company are really trying to put power in the players’ hands, letting battles be as random or structured as people desire.
  • Music Options: The customization extends to the sound as well, with over 900 tracks included in the game. Playlists can now be created for specific stages (depending on the series the stage is based on), and your Switch can basically become an MP3 player even when you’re not playing. Once again, it’s all about giving the player the freedom to experience SSBU any way they want to.
  • Custom Rulesets: Of course, the rules are still as flexible as ever, with stamina battles joining time and stock as regular modes and several new stage selection options (ex. loser picks next stage) tossed in for flavor. Chargeable Final Smash meters, Squad Strikes, Smashdown mode… I’m a broken record at this point, but it’s all about flexibility and a personalized experience.
  • New Items/Pokémon/Trophies: Items are most useful for quick turnarounds and increased chaos anyway, so the new ones shown off here unsurprisingly take this to the extreme (also, the Banana Gun is just hilarious). Same goes for the Pokémon, although these feel a bit more standard (I have to admit though, the teleporting Abra idea seemed especially inspired). In terms of the Assist trophies, what stood out was (as Alucard showed earlier) how much more deadly they seemed this time around: If they’re going to count for KOs, they aren’t going to go down without a fight! (Especially Rathalos.)
  • Menu: Well…er…it’s a menu. I mean, it looks a lot like recent SSB menus, and the dashboard suggests that friend requests and other messages can be handled without leaving the game, but…yeah. It looks fine, I guess.
  • K. Rool: As ham-handed as the Luigi scene was, the Dedede scene was the exact opposite, a perfect troll head-fake that wound up adding another villain to the roster. K. Rool has been a really popular request from the SSB fanbase, so everything lined up perfectly for his inclusion. I have to say, tossing in all these bad guys could be setting up one heck of a Subspace Emissary-like campaign…

All of these reveals boil down to one major truth: Sakurai and the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate team are giving you the ability to play the game in whatever way that maximizes your enjoyment. The title caters to casual and hardcore players, orderly and chaotic players, Melee and Brawl players…it bridges darn near any fighting-game divide you can think of. (If there’s one thing I’d like in Splatoon 3, it’s this level of battle customization and control.) SSBU is aiming to be a game that speaks to any player no matter their background, skill level, or personality, and as good as Breath Of The Wild and Super Mario Odyssey were, it may well be this one that defines this console generation.

So…can we stop whining about Waluigi now?